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OBJECTIVE: Identifying febrile patients requiring antibacterial treatment is challenging, particularly in low-resource settings. In Southeast Asia, C-reactive protein (CRP) has been demonstrated to be highly sensitive and moderately specific in detecting bacterial infections, and to safely reduce unnecessary antibacterial prescriptions in primary care. As evidence is scant in sub-Saharan Africa, we assessed the sensitivity of CRP in identifying serious bacterial infections in Tanzania. METHODS: Samples were obtained from inpatients and outpatients in a prospective febrile illness study at two hospitals in Moshi, Tanzania, 2011-2014. Bacterial bloodstream infections (BSI) were established by blood culture, and bacterial zoonotic infections were defined by ≥4-fold rise in antibody titer between acute and convalescent sera. The sensitivity of CRP in identifying bacterial infections was estimated using thresholds of 10, 20, and 40 mg/L. Specificity was not assessed because determining false positive CRP results was limited by the lack of diagnostic testing to confirm non-bacterial etiologies and because ascertaining true negative cases was limited by the imperfect sensitivity of the diagnostic tests used to identify bacterial infections. RESULTS: Among 235 febrile outpatients and 569 febrile inpatients evaluated, 31 (3.9%) had a bacterial BSI and 61 (7.6%) had a bacterial zoonosis. Median (interquartile range) CRP values were 173 (80-315) mg/L in bacterial BSI, and 108 (31-208) mg/L in bacterial zoonoses. The sensitivity (95% Confidence Intervals) of CRP was 97% (83-99%), 94% (79-98%), 90% (74-97%) for identifying bacterial BSI, and 87% (76-93%), 82% (71-90%), 72% (60-82%) for bacterial zoonoses, using thresholds of 10, 20 and 40mg/L respectively. CONCLUSION: CRP was moderately sensitive for bacterial zoonoses and highly sensitive for identifying BSIs. Based on these results, operational studies are warranted to assess the safety and clinical utility of CRP for the management of non-malaria febrile illness at first-level health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original publication




Journal article


Trop Med Int Health

Publication Date



C-reactive protein (CRP), antibacterial prescription, bacterial infection, fever, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)